1983, Movies

Carnival Magic (1983, Al Adamson)

There are some terrible movies that are technically awful and might have actually been saved by some budget. And there are some terrible movies that are bad for story reasons, in addition to some other issues (the cast, the script…). This is one of the latter, presumably a product of the animal craze caused by the success of Every Which Way but Loose.

Since I was a child, I have not enjoyed animal-centric movies. When I was young, it was because I thought they would make me sad (Bambi, etc.) As an adult, I find them childish and/or manipulative. But few of those movies I’ve seen (at least as an adult) are as bad as this. This movie has a mediocre plot, to put it mildly, and then it has some very slim character motivations, as well as terrible acting around the margins.

The plot is a typical “animal in jeopardy” plot where one person/organization wants to hurt the animal at the centre of the film for “reasons.” In this case, it’s because the chimp can “talk.” The talking is provided by some horribly “overdubbed” dialogue. I put overdubbed in quotation marks because it really isn’t dubbed, it’s just put in from post and it’s extraordinarily obvious. Some evil scientist wants to dissect the chimp, or whatever, and, eventually, our heroes have to try to save that chimp. Despite the 86 minute runtime, it takes a long time to get to that point.

It’s hard to really know why anyone does anything beyond the surface level. Every major character is essentially a cardboard cut-out. Nobody has any interior life or past. (Well, Markov has a past. That’s it.) But that’s pretty typical of these types of movies.

Perhaps the most noticeably bad aspect is the acting around the major characters. Many of the actors who are given a couple of lines feel like they have never acted in a movie before. (Nearly everyone on the IMDB page doesn’t have a headshot so that tracks.) Some of it is only mildly bad but some of it makes you wonder who many takes they tried if that was the best they could get. Though the plot is garbage, the the execution of the film is totally adequate outside of the chimp’s “dialogue,” except these terrible actors, some of whom are laugh-out-loud wooden or awkward.

This is hardly the worst movie ever made. But it has a type of plot I really dislike, the dubbed in “voice” of the chimp is awful, and the bit part actors are so bad that it makes a merely bad movie significantly worse.


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